A Qualitative Study of Grief among Family Members of Missing Persons in Southern Sri Lanka
IntroductionThe psychological and social issues experienced by family members of missing persons are different from normal grief following the death of a loved one. The term "Ambiguous loss" describes this psychological phenomenon. "Ambiguous loss" acts as a barrier to adjusting to grief, leading to symptoms of depression and intra and interpersonal relational conflicts. An in-depth understanding of this subjective experience is important.MethodA qualitative study was conducted among close
... ed among close family members of persons who had gone missing during the civil conflict and the 2004 tsunami in southern Sri Lanka. Purposive and snowballing sampling methods were used to recruit the participants. In-depth interviews were recorded with the help of a semi-structured guide, after informed consent. The recordings were transcribed and thematically analyzed by three independent investigators. The investigators met to code the themes and ground them through reflexivity. The triangulation process involved cross-checking with the interviewees. ResultsTheoretical sample saturation was achieved with 24 family members of missing persons. Responders were mothers, fathers, wives, husbands, and siblings of missing individuals. Six predominant themes were identified. They lacked closure, hope, guilt, helplessness, perpetual suffering, and effects due to gender roles. ConclusionThe close family member of the missing person has prolonged vacillating grief characterized by hope, guilt, helplessness, and perpetual suffering due to lack of closure. The effects are more pronounced in women through the interplay of socio-cultural factors. The surviving loved one is 'locked in grief' indefinitely.